As we reach the end of Volunteers Week Jon, who is one of our brilliant volunteer team members, shared his thoughts with us after one of his recent “shifts”…
It was just another day on duty at the Visitor Centre. Taking over from the morning volunteer, I checked in with the team and had a quick chat. Would there be many visitors on one of the first sunny, warm days of the year?
Visitor flow was intermittent, but at least that allowed time for extended exchanges. And interesting conversations they turned out to be.
Unfailingly appreciative visitors came into the gravesite and left. From them, a cross-section of comments, ranging from the prosaic “Thank you,” to enthusiastic explanations of historical interest, personal memories of the re-interment and knowledgeable enquiries about details of the dig.
But make no assumptions, each visitor had his or her own take on at least one aspect of the complex scenario presented by the Visitor Centre. And for me, the opportunity for exchanges in which I had time to find out a little more for myself:
A couple from Ukraine – no need to explain the brutalities of medieval warfare to them, but an opportunity to personalise a welcome to Leicester. I was amazed at their calm interest in the historical perspective of the Centre and their positive approach to exploring the city.
Two young Slovaks intent on recording as much as possible about the dig; also certain that the centre ranked high amongst the ‘must see’ sites of their visit to this country. As I detailed the probable plundering of the friary during the Dissolution, I found myself having to explain the difference between “coffers” and “coffin”. Note to self, never assume too much, and be prepared to either elaborate or simplify, as necessary.
Others with questions about the tracing of Richard’s descendants – often referenced, but today testing my knowledge and only resolved by a quick visit upstairs before the enquirer left the Centre.
Some folk came and went without comment, others were happy to reveal the reasons for visiting: a lady from Essex delighted that this was her surprise fiftieth birthday present; folk from neighbouring counties, one by train, for the day; local residents bringing friends; another visitor who took numerous photographs as I talked, but made no comment, no eye contact.
I began a conversation with a Bristolian who had driven to spend the day at the Centre. I’m not sure what he had expected, but he professed himself so ‘blown away’ that he found it hard to take it all in. He was driving home that evening but was adamant that he would return the next day with a friend who hadn’t been able to travel with him initially, so much did he want to share.
Then there was the visitor from Utrecht. We had time for a fascinating and far-reaching conversation, all very relevant, but I was left wondering which one of us had learnt more about each other’s city from the exchange. Fascinating, but not unique in terms of a day at the Visitor Centre.
One of the wonderful things about volunteering at the King Richard III Visitor Centre, of course, is that the world comes visiting. And, actually, it doesn’t matter whether folk are from Nottinghamshire or Northamptonshire, Utrecht or Ukraine, the opportunities for engagement and exchange are both manifold and unique.
All in all, a fascinating day, and a consistently important part of the privilege of being entrusted with a volunteer role at the Centre. At the same time, as I scrolled back mentally that evening, just another day on duty in an amazing place……
It’s great to feel part of the team.
A HUGE thank you to Jon and all our volunteers.